Samuel Umtiti has said Manchester United aren't the only club interested in signing him, during an interview with Canal FC (h/t Metro's Simon Rice). The France international centre-back also confirmed talks over renewing his contract with Barcelona are yet to begin.
Umtiti called the release clause worth £53 million in his current Barca deal "low" but also said his "sole focus is on Barcelona," despite the interest from United and "other clubs."
Playing for the Blaugrana was his dream, according to Umtiti. The former Lyon defender has been a dream signing for the Camp Nou club, wasting no time in becoming the linchpin of a stingy back four.
As much as the attacking prowess of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez defines Barca, manager Ernesto Valverde's side is also reliant on an Umtiti-led defence breached just 15 times during 30 matches in La Liga.
Umtiti's pace, power and technique have earned him rave reviews in Spain, but they have also attracted admiring glances from Old Trafford. United boss Jose Mourinho has reportedly already approached Umtiti about a summer move, per Duncan Castles of the Sunday Times.
Sky Sports Spanish football expert Guillem Balague recently detailed the state of play between Umitit, United and Barca:
Sky Sports LaLiga @SkyRevista
.@GuillemBalague: “Umtiti is playing a two-card game, on one hand he is telling Barca he wants to stay but on the other he wants to treble his wages. No decision has been made whether he will get a pay rise or move to @ManUtd.” Full answer 👉 https://t.co/YkSGY7ScVu #AskGuillem https://t.co/8nAqSDE2bo
A report from Spanish source Sport (h/t Andrew Richardson of The Sun) said the Blaugrana are keeping tabs on Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt and RB Leipzig's DayotUpamecano while Umtiti's contract talks drag.
Losing Umtiti would be an obvious blow for a squad short on star power at the heart of defence. Thomas Vermaelen is 32 and injury-prone, while 31-year-old Gerard Pique has shown signs of deterioration this season.
Pique drew criticism from Sid Lowe of the Guardian as he struggled during Saturday's 2-2 draw away to Sevilla:
Umtiti is still just 24, but he has already replaced Pique as Barcelona's talisman at the back. The club would be wise to resume negotiations over a new contract as soon as possible.